The Independent Endorses YES on MM

Endorsement in the Oct. 20 edition of The Independent:

There are many reasons to support the “yes” position on Pleasanton’s Measure MM, dubbed the “Costco Initiative.” If approved, the measure would limit new buildings within the Johnson Drive Economic Development Zone (EDZ) to 50,000 square feet.

A “yes” vote would mean a vote against locating a Costco on the 40-acre site. The city has stopped processing the EDZ, pending the outcome of the vote on November 8.

Issues include traffic, air pollution, jobs, economic impacts and financing of transportation infrastructure.

The city hired a consultant to compare what would happen if Costco were or were not approved. The report, issued in August, concluded that if MM were approved and Costco did move forward, there would be less traffic, less pollution, 500 more jobs, comparable sales tax, and infrastructure would be built without subsidies or a loan.

On the other hand, opponents of the measure note that the site offers prime freeway visibility that would bring in more tax revenues to finance city services and projects.

However, additional concerns about the Costco project focus on city staff negotiations that offer Costco a subsidy. The project’s mitigations are estimated to include $16 million in infrastructure improvements. Questions have been raised over how those improvements would be financed. Loan amounts to the city from Costco range from $6 million to $7.5 million; the loan would be paid back to the developer plus interest using tax revenue generated by the project. Rebating tax funds to Costco would limit the amount of tax revenue that could be available to the city for projects such as a new library.

To avoid controversy, the city should have been more forthright telling the public it was negotiating terms of the financing of infrastructure.

We support the environmental and job benefits to the city. We recommend a yes vote on MM.